Archive for December, 2008

The Charismatic Napoleon Bonaparte …

Posted on December 31, 2008. Filed under: Personalities, The French Contribution |

Bonaparte Crossing the Alps

As for me, I have the gift of electrifying men” – Napoleon Bonaparte

“That devil of a man exercises a fascination on me that I cannot explain even to myself, and in such a degree that, though I fear neither God nor devil, when I am in his presence I am ready to tremble like a child, and he could make me go through the eye of a needle to throw myself into the fire” General Vandamme, on Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon was a French military and political leader who had a significant impact on the history of Europe.  He ruled France as First Consul of the First French Republic and as Emperor of the First French Empire.

Born in Corsica he was trained as an artillery officer. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution when he snuffed out the dying embers of that Revolution with a ‘whiff of grape shot’.

He was then given comnand of an army in total disarray. He shaped it into a fighting force with his charismatic oratory and having invaded Italy captured it in a classic campaign.

As a military orator, as a general addressing his troops, Napoleon was  unsurpassed’.

‘He invented a style of eloquence reminiscent of Caesar – brief, bold, declarative, familiar yet imperial in its bold sweep and cadence. It made an instant appeal to valor and the soldiers of the Republic died for him unquestioningly’.

‘As a parliamentary speaker, confronted by a hostile or doubtful audience, he was a failure. His forte was not debate or eloquent persuasion but crisp proclamation, announcing his victories or his sovereign decisions. His genus rapidly put him in  a position where only the latter were needed”.

He spoke in a clipped, terse, passionate style, with an effect which  startled the world.

In 1799, his only talented brother, Lucien, helped him stage a coup d’état and installed him as First Consul. Five years later he crowned himself Emperor of the French. Lucien refused Napoleon’s diktat to give up the woman he loved and so banished himself to England

In the first decade of the nineteenth century (“Roll up that map of Europe – it will not be needed these ten years” – Pitt the Younger, Prime Minister, like his father, of England), he turned the armies of France against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a series of startling military victories – epitomized in battles such as Austerlitz , Friedland, Vimiera, Badajos, Salamanca, Tolouse – indeed some 60 major battles!

He led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. He maintained France’s sphere of influence by the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.

As long as he stayed married to Josephine, a woman of easy virtue, his star remained in the ascendant. Having divorced her, he could either marry into the Russian or Austrian Monarchy. He chose the Austrian Monarchy.

His invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in his fortunes. His Grande Armée was wrecked in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig, invaded France and exiled him to the island of Elba.

Less than a year later, he returned (‘Able was I ere I saw Elba’ – his sentence which can be read backwards) and was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.

Napoleon spent the last six years of his life under British supervision on the island of Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. The autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer though Sten Forshufvud and other scientists in the 1960s conjectured that he had been slowly poisoned with arsenic.

Napoleon scored major victories with a modernised French army and drew his tactics of concentration and ‘shock’ from different sources. His campaigns are studied at military academies the world over and he is widely regarded as one of history’s greatest commanders.

While considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is greatly remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code, which laid the administrative foundations for much of modern Western Europe.

Here follow some of his more relevant observations –

A leader is a dealer in hope.

I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be the one or the other.

If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur. It is not genius which reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

The strong man is the one who is able to intercept at will the communication between the senses and the mind.

Water, air, cleanliness – these are the chief articles in my pharmacy.

There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.


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Health and Hippocrates …

Posted on December 21, 2008. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personalities, Quotes, The Great Greeks |

Hippocrates was a Greek physician during the Age of Pericles. An outstanding figure, who is called the “father of medicine,” he revolutionized medicine smf establishrf it as a discipline and advanced the systematic study of clinical diagnosis,.The ‘Hippocratic Oath,’ which codifies his value system, is followed to this day. Here are his dictums.

Walking is man’s best medicine. If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too much and not too little, we would have found the safest way to health.

 A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings and learn how, by his own thought, to derive benefit from his illnesses. Everything in excess is opposed to nature.


Healing is a matter of time but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease. Prayer is indeed good, but while calling on the Gods, a man should himself lend a hand.


Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases. To do nothing is also a good remedy. It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.


Life is short, the art long; opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgement difficult. Many admiire, few know. Science is the father of knowledge but opinion breeds ignorance..


Make a habit of two things – to help or at least not to harm.. Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.


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Hitler’s friend and possible(?) Successor …

Posted on December 14, 2008. Filed under: Books, From a Services Career, Personalities, The Germans |

Albert Speer was sharp and brilliant – possibily the most intelligent and cool Nazi, who was Hitlers personal friend yet who escaped the death sentence at the Nuremburg Trials – his deputy was hanged.. He impressed the Judges into believing, (and at his level and proximity to the power center) that ‘he did not know’. He also came up with a tale of  a hardly plausible – and unacted – plot to kill Hitler. After his release he wrote two best sellers, one on the Third Riech and the other on his prison days.

A trained architect, he came to Hitlers notice because of his genius for the grandiose . At Hitlers behest  he planned to rebuild Berlin. The plans centered around a three-mile long grand boulevard running north – south, which Speer called the Street of Magnificence. At the north end of the boulevard, Speer planned to build a huge assembly hall with a dome which would have been over 700 feet high, with floor space for 180,000 people. At the southern end of the avenue would be a huge triumphal arch; almost 400 feet high and able to fit the French ‘Arc de Triomphe’ inside its opening. When Speer’s father saw the model for the new Berlin, he said to his son, “You’ve all gone completely insane.”

As Minister of Armaments, when the Allies had complete air superiority and were bombing German industry at will, his organizatiional and improvisational skills, ensured that tank production more than doubled; production of planes increased by 80 percent, and production time for submarines was decreased from one year to two months. Towards the end of the war he continued to ensure increase in production till he could supply 270 army divisions whereas the Army had only 150 Diviions.

Speer was so successful that before the beginning of the end, he was widely regarded among the Nazi elite as a possible  successor to Hitler. Yet at the end of the war, this highly intelliegent and powerful fighre could get away by saying, “I did not know of the atrocities or the genocide”.

This is what he writes of Nazi Germany and Hitler –

Despite the popular vision of the country as a monolithic, totalitarian state, Hitler had extremely unstable work habits that included staying up very late (typically until 5 or 6AM) and then sleeping until about noon, spending hours upon hours at meals and tea parties, and wasting both his time and that of colleagues with movies and long, boring monologues. He was incapable of normal office work. Speer says he  openly wondered when exactly Hitler ever found time to do anything important..

The country was divided by overlapping responsibilities, court politics, and incompetent leaders.  Hitler is portrayed as a lazy, unartistically tempered bohemian who worked in spurts.   

Speer’s personal insights into Nazi leaders themselves are nothing short of remarkable, especially since many Nazis and their families chose him as a neutral confidant.. About Göring,, Speer wrote how the by then overweight Luftwaffe marshal spent his days hunting, eating, and quite literally playing with stolen jewels as if they were toys.

Listening to the Führer, Speer concluded that Hitler was incapable of growth, either emotional or intellectual. Because Hitler could charm people (including Speer himself), Speer also believed Hitler was a sociopath and megalomaniac. Even in 1945, when Germany’s armed forces were all but destroyed, Speer could not convince Hitler to admit defeat, or even to go on the defensive.

Two days befire the end, Speer relates that he confessed to Hitler that he had defied Hitlers last order regarding Hitler’s scorched earth policy but assured Hitler of his personal loyalty – and this brought tears to the dictator’s eyes.  The following morning,, the day before his suicide, Hitler curtly bade him farewel .and prepared his ‘final political testament’. That document excluded Speer from the Cabinet and specified that Speer was to be replaced.

PS. He has, said to have, donated over 4/5ths of the royalties he received on account of his two best sellers, to Jewish charities. Of course, anonymously…

PPS. Re Hitler. Two of his great army generals, rated among the world’s very best, have separately recounted how every long meeting with the Fuhrer resulted in their mental and emotional faculties being milked dry and left them drained and empty. Their names? Field Marshals Erich von Manstien and Erwin von Rommel 

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After Shakespeare stands John Milton …

Posted on December 12, 2008. Filed under: Great Writing, Guide Posts, Personalities, Quotes, The English |

John Milton was poet and civil servant. Best known for his epic poem ‘Paradise Los’t and for his treatise condemning censorship. Milton wrote at a time of religious and political flux and his work reflects deep convictions. He was an official in the government of Oliver Cromwell and his radical republican politics and heretical religious views, alienated Samuel Johnson, who described him as “an acrimonious and surly republican.” 

The superior man acquaints himself with many sayings of antiquity and many deeds of the past in order to strengthen his character thereby. Give me the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely, according to conscience; this above all liberties.

Better to reign in hell then to serve in heaven. Nothing profits more than self esteem, grounded on what is just and right.

He who reins within himself and rules passions, desires, fears, is more than a King. They also serve who stand and wait.

Beauty is nature’s brag; and must be shown in courts, at feasts and high solemnities; where most may wonder at the workmanship.                                     

A good book is the precious life blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured on purpose to a life beyond life. Not – “Deep versed in books and shallow in himself”.

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Nature & John Muir …

Posted on December 9, 2008. Filed under: American Thinkers, Guide Posts, Light plus Weighty, Quotes |

John Muir was a Scottish-born naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of the wilderness. His letters, essays and books telling of his adventures in nature and wildlife, especially in the Sierra Nevada in California, have been read by millions. His direct activism helped to save the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is one of the most important conservation organizations in the US. His writings and philosophy strongly influenced the formation of the modern environmental movement.

The mountains are calling and I must go. How glorius a greeting the sun gives the mountains. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Allow nature to heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

Keep close to Nature’s heart – and, once in a while, break clear away, climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods – and wash your spirit clean.
Take a course in good water and pure air – and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.

 To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful places in the world.Trees go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!

.The power of imagination makes us infinite.

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Woody Allen’s humor …

Posted on December 3, 2008. Filed under: Guide Posts, Light plus Weighty, Mars & Venus, Movies, Personalities, Quotes |

Woody Allen is actor, director, writer, playwright and stright faced comedian. His films, which range from drama to screwball sex comedies, have made him one of the most respected living directors.  

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. I had a terrible education – I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers.


His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed sense of moral bankruptcy.

Whether they give or refuse, it delights a woman just to have been asked..I want to tell you a terrific story of oral contraception. I asked this girl and she said, “No”.


Organized crime in America takes in forty billion dollars a year –  and spends very little on office suppllies.




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‘For an Economist? …’

Posted on December 2, 2008. Filed under: Business, Guide Posts |

Apropos earlier posts on the current world financial mess, including the post of Sep 08, titled, ‘Competition for Michael Moore …’  – here is a copy of another  doing the rounds; it should have Economists turning in their graves – or rising to a Happy Birthday ?

The Japanese save a lot and they do not spend much. Also Japan exports far more than it imports. It has an annual trade surplus of over $100 billion,  yet Japanese economy is considered weak, even collapsing.
Americans spend, save little. Also US imports more than it exports. It has an annual trade deficit of over $400 billion. Yet, the American economy is considered strong and trusted to get stronger. But where do the Americans get money to spend? They borrow from Japan,  China, and even India. Indeed others save for the US to spend.

Global savings are mostly invested in the US, in dollars. India itself keeps its foreign currency assets of over $50 billion in US securities. China has sunk over $160 billion in US securities. Japan’s stakes in US securities is in trillions.

Result? The US has taken over $5 trillion from the world. So, as the world saves for the US, Americans spend freely. Today, to keep the US consumption going, that is for the US economy to work, other countries have to remit $180 billion every quarter, or $2 billion a day, to the US. Otherwise the US economy would go sick. And so will the global economy. The result will be no different if US consumers begin consuming less.

A Chinese economist asked a neat question, “Who has invested more, US in China , or China in US?’. The US has invested in China less than half of what China has invested in the US. The same is the case with India . We have invested in US over $50 billion. But the US has invested less than $20 billion in India . Why is the world tailing the US? The secret lies in the American power of spending and its unwillingness to save. In fact they use their credit cards to spend their future income. That the US spends is what makes it attractive to export to the US. Hence US imports more than what it exports -year in, year out.

The result:is that the world is dependent on US consumption for its own growth. By its ever growing  culture of consumption, the US has habituated the world to feed on US consumption. But as the US needs money to finance its consumption, the world provides the money. It’s like a shopkeeper providing the money to a customer so that the customer keeps buying from his shop. If the customer will not buy; the shop won’t have business – unless the shop keeper funds him.
The US is like the lucky customer. And the world is like the helpless shop keeper cum financer. Who is America ‘s biggest shopkeeper financer? Japan, of course. Yet it’s Japan which is regarded as weak.

Modern economists complain that since the Japanese do not spend, they do not grow. To force the Japanese to spend, the Japanese government exerted itself. It reduced the savings rates and even charged the savers Even then the Japanese did not spend (habits don’t change, even with taxes, do they?). Their traditional postal savings alone are over $1.2 trillions, about three times the Indian GDP.
Thus, savings, far from being the strength of Japan , are their Achilles Heel.

 What is the lesson? A nation cannot grow unless the people spend, not save. Not just spend, but borrow and spend. Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, the Indian-born US economist says, don’t wastefully save.
So start spending – on imported cars. cosmetics amd contrabamd! This will put all nations on a growth curve. The slogan, “‘Saving is sin. Spending is charity”.

Before you follow this neo economics, get some fools to save so that you can borrow from them – and start spending. This is what the US does, year after year.

PS. It was Napoleon who called the English, “A nation of shopkeepers”; and it was they who defeated him!

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Heraclitus was a Pre Socratic Greek …

Posted on December 1, 2008. Filed under: Guide Posts, Quotes, The Great Greeks |

Heraclitus was a pre Socratic Greek philosopher known for his doctrine of change being central to the Universe.  Famed for being vague and for talking in riddles, he was called the weeping philosopher because another was called the laughing philosopher. They both agreed that the most repeated prayer is for riches.

Big results require big ambitions and a man’s character is his fate.


The best people renounce all for one goal, the eternal fame of mortals; but most people stuff themselves like cattle.


Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.


It is hard to contend against one’s heart’s desire; for whatever it wishes to have it buys at the cost of soul.


If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it but the unexpected will find you. It cannot to be found by logic or toil.


Much learning does not teach understanding – I am what libraries have made me with little assisstance from a professor.


Change alone is unchanging. God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.


The chain of wedlock is heavy and it takes two to carry it — and sometimes three!

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